Deadlines nearly killed me

Why leaving assignments until the last minute isn’t a joke

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It’s 5 a.m. on submission day and I’ve been up all night too busy procrastinating, worrying and crying. The sun is starting to rise and I’ve gone out for an illicit ciggie on the balcony of my accommodation, contemplating whether uni is even worth it.

I’m sick of feeling like this. I’m sick of feeling like the world is about to fall inwards on me anytime I have to submit an assignment, or face any kind of responsibility for that matter. I’m sick of living day to day in a bubble wrap, distracting myself from responsibilities with vacuous entertainment, ultimately self-sabotaging my life because I’m too scared to take the risk and start writing.

That dreadful morning, I dragged myself into the welfare office, wreaking of despair. I want to quit uni. As the words left my mouth I realised that this was real, that I’m actually going to be quitting university for good. I felt relief, but I didn’t feel the happiness I was expecting. In fact, only more stress – what would I do if I quit uni? I didn’t have a job. Where would I go? I’d already settled down here. The prospect of regressing back into living with my parents sobered me up.

Fuck no. You have to get your shit together.

The Welfare Officer was so blasé about my request to quit my course that it initially angered me, but ultimately left me making the right decision and having a long hard think about priorities. University wasn’t the be all and end all of life, there’s so much more to it.

But everyone has responsibilities and I had been neglecting mine. Without responsibility what is our purpose? I had lost sight of mine, lost track of my goals of furthering my education in my English degree in order to become a writer. anyway I loved learning and I was good at it. To quit uni would be such a waste, particularly when being in full-time education is such a privilege.

When I read stories of people bragging about finishing their diss in 12 hours or see a video of a student submitting their assignment in the club, I feel empathy not jealousy. Maybe some people really do work well under pressure, but I know I don’t, and thinking about the emotional torment leaving work until the last minute caused me, I would never do it again. It might be more ‘efficient’ (why waste days writing an assignment when you can do an all-nighter?) but for me, it just led to even worse self-esteem when I got my mediocre grades back.

Even though my grades were still decent, I didn’t feel like I’d deserved them, like I could have done better if only I’d just planned ahead. But it’s not even that. Stressing yourself to the point that you seriously consider ruining or even completely ending your life is not worth it all. University is meant to be fun, not torture. I didn’t want to be a slave to my emotions any longer. I wanted to get better so I could reach my full potential and be proud of my work, knowing that I tried my hardest, rather than submitting some half-arsed keyboard mashed non-proofread essay 1 minute before the deadline.

I’m being wary of simplifying mental health issues. I didn’t just ‘pull myself together’ amidst the mental shitstorm I was experiencing. It was a slow journey out of the mist, one I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get out of. But once you reach a low point and you can’t get any lower, there’s only one way to go and that’s up. I had fallen over but I wasn’t going to keep lying on the ground forever. But I didn’t spring up immediately all by myself either, I am grateful to have had support in friends and family and welfare. I was stumbling at first, but then I found I could walk, and now I’m running. I might fall over again but I’ll just stand back up and start all over again.

But then again I only know all of this with the benefit of hindsight. The difference between someone who is mentally well and someone who isn’t is that it is very difficult to explain this to an unwell person. It’s only really once the foggy mist had lifted that I was able to see clearly and really understand it for myself. That I really am in charge of my own destiny. That I can write. That I am capable of finishing my assignments on time and well if only I try better time-management. It’s easy to feel lost and a lack of control when you get lost in a spiral of worrying and cripplingly low self-esteem. But you just have to take baby steps, take life one sentence at a time, until before you know it, you’ve finished your essay and pressed submit. They say writing the introduction is the hardest, but it honestly just gets easier after that.